Judge orders St. Paul’s graduate detained on decades-old sexual assault charges

  • Benjamin Baker faces multiple sexual assault charges, alleging he abused two children at St. Paul's School in the 1970s.

Monitor staff
Published: 3/8/2019 5:23:03 PM

Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, rage and confusion ate away at him for more than 40 years. He suffered from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and felt as if he was living in a prison no one else could see.

The man, who says he was repeatedly raped as a child living on the campus of St. Paul’s School, addressed a Concord courtroom for the first time Friday. Looking on from a live video feed at the Merrimack County jail in Boscawen was St. Paul’s graduate Benjamin Baker, who stands accused of sexually assaulting the man whose father worked at the Concord prep school in the 1970s.

“For years, I was tormented with nightmares about Ben Baker grabbing me,” the man said before Judge M. Kristin Spath. “I saw Ben Baker once at a St. Paul’s School reunion and I was afraid to go back to reunions for a few years even though (the school) was my home.”

Baker, a star wrestler during his time at St. Paul’s in the 1970s, is accused of sexually assaulting the man and his brother, both of whom were entrusted in Baker’s care for years.

Concord police say that abuse continued after Baker graduated from St. Paul’s in 1974. He faces 12 sexual assault-related charges, most of them felonies.

Baker, 61, of Falls Church, Va., arrived in New Hampshire late Thursday after waiving extradition from his home state. Friday morning he appeared for a video arraignment and bail hearing in Concord’s district court, where Spath ordered him detained pending trial despite his request for release on personal recognizance.

City prosecutor Tracy Connolly requested preventative detention, saying Baker has no ties to the Granite State and has the financial means to attempt to flee prosecution. She noted that Baker spends time in England each month.

“He should not now be able to say he’s not a danger because he hasn’t been discovered for 40 years,” Connolly said.

She urged the court to consider the danger he posed to the victims at the time of the alleged abuse and the power he’s exerted over them ever since, contributing to their decision to stay silent until 2017.

The Concord Police Department’s investigation of Baker began in June 2017 when St. Paul’s administrators first learned of the abuse allegations and reported them.

Connolly said the abuse against the boys escalated over time. What began as a game with Baker wrestling the boys to the ground and tickling them, later turned to inappropriate touching to forcible restraint in a bedroom where the abuse occurred behind a closed door.

The brothers didn’t realize each one had been victimized by Baker until years later, Connolly said.

Under New Hampshire law, minors who were sexually assaulted by an adult have until age 40 to pursue criminal charges and until age 30 to file a civil lawsuit. However, there are exceptions to the rule; the clock stops running if the offender leaves the state – which Baker did.

Defense attorney Christine List of Orr and Reno, who appeared with Baker from the jail, said her client has long known of the pending investigation against him and yet he remained in Virginia, where he has two homes.

“It’s simply disingenuous to say he’s a flight risk,” List said. “Defending these allegations is a priority for him and he’s eager to do that.”

Baker’s record includes a conviction for driving while intoxicated but is otherwise clean, she said.

“This man has had zero indication of being a danger to the community in the last 45 years,” List said.

Spath did not rule from the bench but rather took the arguments under advisement. Within a half-hour of the hearing’s conclusion, she issued a written order granting Connolly’s request for Baker to remain detained.

Spath also ordered Baker to have no contact with the victims or anyone under the age of 18. He must also surrender his passport to the Concord Police Department.

The court will next schedule a probable cause hearing, although List said she believes the hearing won’t be necessary since the case will proceed to Merrimack County Superior Court, which handles felony cases.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319 or adandrea@cmonitor.com.)

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